Sugarcane farmers, sugar millers plead for government help

Local sugar millers and sugarcane farmers say they are calling for multiple issues to be addressed urgently by the government to ensure the sustainable development of the sector in the country.

The farmers and millers presented the issues during Sugar Forum 2019 industry event held in Nay Pyi Taw on September 10 and 11, said Director General of the Department of Agriculture U Ye Tint Tun.

“Local sugarcane farmers are being pushed into poverty to bring prosperity to other countries,” said U Cho Tuu, a sugarcane farmer from Katha township in Sagaing Region.

“There are 500,000 sugarcane farmers in the country and thousands of others who work as harvesters or in sugal mills. These lives are suffering because of sugar imported from other countries. They told us to compete in the global market, but we have cultivated sugarcane for about 60 years. It’s been almost 30 years I’ve been doing this. We’re going to be in deep trouble next year. This is just the start,” he said.

“Among the most pressing issues the farmers and millers want addressed in the short term is the collection of fees at toll gates and bridges for the transportation of sugarcane. The farmers have to send many loads of sugarcane to the mills, so the fees add to the price of sugarcane and farmers what to be exempted from the fees, said U Ye Tint Tun.

“Industry insiders also called for the ending of re-export licences to China until local businesses have the ability to compete and more efforts directed at combating the illegal sugar trade from neighbouring countries,” said said U Soe Lin, chair of the Myanmar Sugar and Sugarcane Product Manufacturers Association.

U Soe Lin said Thailand and India produce millions of tonnes of surplus sugar every year, which puts pressure on the local industry as some of the surplus makes its way into the country illegally.

Myanmar has more than 161,800 hectares (400,000 acres) of sugarcane plantations and produced more than 470,000 tonnes of sugar last year, an amount deemed sufficient for domestic consumption.

The industry insiders say they want to be allowed to export sugar under the supervision of an organisation made up of people from the industry. Additionally, they called for more effective action to be taken against parties that import sugar purportedly for industrial use, but then sell it directly in the local market.

The association are calling for government-to-government negotiations with China to allow exports of local sugar and the easing of conditions to obtain loans.

“Under current conditions, it is difficult for sugarcane farmers to afford machinery that would make them more productive,” said U Ye Tint Lwin.

U Ye Tint Lwin said more efforts must also be made to help sugarcane farmers and sugar millers to generate more revenue. Sugar mills in other countries generate extra revenue by manufacturing alcohol from sugarcane and also selling the by-product of sugar manufacturing as fuel for electricity generation, whereas in Myanmar, sugar mills produce only sugar, he said.

“It is very important for businesses to live on the revenue gained from by-products. So, we will request permission to sell the electricity which can be produced from boilers in the factory to the national grid, as well as to produce ethanol and alcohol,” said U Soe Lin.

The forum was held to find ways to overcome issues faced by sugar farmers and traders, such as a recent case of 160,000 tonnes of sugar destined for China being stranded on the border, illegal imports of sugar in border areas, and decreasing local sugar prices.

Source: Myanmar Times

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